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May 28, 2015

MMS Myths Debunked


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A fair few myths surround Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS). And despite the billions of messages sent and received by consumers every month, MMS is still misunderstood. 

Let’s check out the most common myths concerning MMS: 

 

Myth #1: MMS Is More Costly Than Regular Text Messaging

Today’s consumers know their SMS texts are usually covered by their plans, but are frequently concerned MMS messages are not. If you have a text messaging plan (which you probably do, c’mon now), you’re charged the same amount for text and multimedia messages. Most major U.S. wireless carriers bundled the two together some years ago, meaning brands, media companies, and advertisers may deliver 30-second videos to customers for the same price as regular text messages. 

 

Myth #2: A Smartphone is Required to Receive MMS Messages

One of the biggest and best advantages of MMS is you don’t need a smartphone to enjoy multimedia content sent to your mobile device. There’s over 2,700 unique mobile devices in today’s market with the support needed for MMS, and many of them are not “smart.” 

 

Myth #3: Most Phones Don’t Support MMS Video

The aforementioned 2,700 mobile devices capable of receiving MMS messages? They’re also more than able to handle MMS video content. 

 

Myth #4: MMS Requires a Data Plan

Just because your service plan doesn’t include an internet or data plan doesn’t mean you can’t send or receive MMS messages. All your device needs is MMS functionality, which it can easily feature minus so-fancy apps and data service. Additionally, it’s entirely possible for mobile marketers to craft and send detailed mobile marketing campaign messages to non-smartphone users via MMS. Nice, right?

 

Myth #5: Only Those Crazy Kids Do the Text Message Thing 

Hardly. Pretty much everyone, from tweens to teens to young adults to older adults utilize text messaging. It might originally have been considered a “kid thing,” but that’s sooo not the case anymore. All age groups text, which explains the photo of your kids that your parents sent you while on a grandparent-grandkid excursion. 

 

Myth #6: MMS Is Popular in Europe and Asia, But Not the United States

Not true. MMS has been on the same usage level as SMS for years, and is currently eclipsing it. There were 10 billion MMS messages sent in the first half of 2009 in the U.S.--yes, 2009. 

Consumer fascination with MMS presents a variety of exciting opportunities for media companies, as mobile messaging is a billion-dollar industry that shows no signs of slowing down. MMS provides the chance to reach consumers anywhere, anytime--in other words, it’s one heck of a marketing asset. 

 

May 18, 2015

Mobile Gaming Revenue to Hit $110 Billion by 2018

 

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New research from intelligence firm Digi-Capital highlights the omnipresence and financial power of the mobile gaming industry. Spending predictions are record-breaking, with a steady annual growth of eight percent leading up to $110 billion by 2018.

Currently, mobile games are taking $3 of every $10 spent by gamers. That figure is expected to increase to $4 in three years time, which will have a dramatic impact on who and how new games go to market.

Spending on smartphones and other mobile devices is already high, generating more revenue than game console software this year—this does not include hardware, or free to play games. Strong growth predictions account for current trends as well as the success of popular games currently in market and budding player downloads in foreign counties.

Compared to North America and Europe, Asia will be responsible for nearly fifty percent of all mobile game revenues by 2018. Asia already leads these figures but is expected to take a larger share as the industry grows and the Asian markets continue to liberalize.

The top grossing mobile games are of no surprise. According to Digi-Capitol founder and managing director, Tim Merel, games like Clash of Clan, Candy Crush Saga, and Game of War will continue their reign from the top. These games have lead considerable marketing campaigns, including Super Bowl ads, regular television campaigns, and comprehensive online advertising. These games have also been available on both iOS and Android since 2012.

The growth potential for these games is great for shareholders, but a challenge for games being squeezed out of the competition. Player acquisition costs are high, $3 a player, which to too expensive for independent companies at the present. These costs are also slimming to already delicate profit margins even if some companies manage to edge it out.

All things considered, there is some good news for emerging mobile games. Mobile marketing automation technologies are improving and the prices seem to be lowering. Solutions used by games like Plants vs. Zombies, Rivals of War and Subway Surfers are becoming more available to independent games and small enterprise.

With China and India looking prospectively good for downloads and users in the coming year, there’s still plenty of room for developers to capitalize on this growing sector of the game market. Moreover, the real takeaway of this research is the proliferation of mobile use among users, which along with the gaming industry parallels in growth.

May 16, 2015

A Third of UK Online Purchases in 2015 Will Be Mobile

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According to eMarketer’s latest estimates, one-third of all 2015 online sales in the UK will take place on smartphones and tablets. The figure is believed to increase by over 40 percent by 2019. eMarketer also estimates that UK retail ecommerce sales will rise 14.5 percent this year to reach £60.4bn. This increase is due to an improved economy, more purchase delivery options, and shoppers turning to mobile devices for buying products and services.

Digital will function as the “main driver” of overall retail sales growth, and subsequently its share of total retail sales will increase to 14.4 percent this year. The increase puts the UK on top of global rankings in regards to ecommerce’s portion of total retail sales. China will be second, with a 12 percent share. The U.S. is farther down the line at 7.1 percent.

Additionally, growth trajectory for mCommerce sales is quite sharp, with this year’s forecast predicting a 30.3 percent increase. eMarketer experts say UK retail mCommerce sales “will reach £19.9bn in 2015, and by 2019, that figure will almost double to just short of £37bn.”

Tablets are especially essential to UK mCommerce sales growth, says eMarketer, as more and more consumers use the devices for “lean-back browsing” of potential purchases. Some retailers are putting extra effort into their tablet retail sites and apps, ensuring they’re both rich and responsive. eMarketer predicts that in 2015 tablet retail mCommerce sales will reach £13.3bn, nearly 67 percent of overall UK retail mcommerce sales. Compare that to 2013, when tablets accounted for a 60.5 percent share of such sales. 

“That mobile is playing an increasingly important role in the retail shopping habits of UK consumers is without question, be that via smartphone, phablet or tablet,” said eMarketer analyst, Bill Fisher. “What this demonstrates, though, is that digital shopping and buying long ago entered the mainstream for most UK consumers, and buying via mobile is just the next step. Indeed, device-agnostic buying, thanks to users’ familiarity with these various device types, is becoming the norm.” 

Even though consumers have demonstrated their willingness to rely on tablets and other mobile devices for making purchases, many retailers have been slow to adapt. Security concerns are one reason for this, and new payment technology options have stagnated as a result. However, the UK is set to establish itself as a huge player in the mobile commerce market over the next few years. 

April 22, 2015

This App Lets You Send a Text 25 Years into the Future... Sort Of

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In an age of instant communication and 24-hour rolling news, the notion of posterity may seem rather quaint. The emphasis is on the now, with scant consideration for what might happen a few weeks - let alone a few years - from now.  

One new app aims to put long-term thinking back in the spotlight, by providing users with a platform to delay the release of their text messages for up to 25 years. Launched last month, Incubate Messenger is the innovation of Atlanta-based entrepreneur Michael McCluney.  

Incubate’s uses aren’t immediately obvious but, according to McCluney, it doesn’t take long for people to ‘think of reasons they need to strategically time [a] message’ when you give them the functionality. Those reasons range from forgetful spouses priming an anniversary text message months ahead of the date, to soldiers on tour sending a time-delayed SMS to their kids when they know they’ll be unable to reach a phone on duty. In addition to SMS messaging, movies, photos and audio messages are also catered for by the app.

McCluney’s lightbulb moment came when an exhausted friend - and father of triplets - told him of the nightly struggles tending to three 3-month-old babies. The developer suggested his friend make audio recordings to capture the chaos of a trio of screaming infants in the middle of the night. Wouldn’t it be great if Dad could somehow share these moments with his kids when they were old enough to laugh at their tiny selves?  

That exchange inspired one of Incubate’s unique features: Nursery. The feature allows parents to send time-delayed messages to their kids from the moment they are born. Parents simply create an account, which their child can access when they get their first mobile device. Anyone with an account can exchange messages and see how many messages await them in the future but - and here’s the clever bit - they can’t access the message or see the identity of the sender until the date set by the sender. Having a mystery text message that you can’t read for 25 years is the ultimate in delayed gratification, and a masterstroke of an emotional hook.

Asynchronous communication is not entirely new. Boomerang and Gmail both have options for time-delayed messages, as do Vine and Snapchat. But Incubate aims to promote the sharing of information with a little more gravitas than photographs of desserts. It’s about creating a time capsule capable of creating a bond through space and time. Until now, a dewy-eyed father packing his kid off to college can do his best to reminisce about his youth - and probably get rolled eyes and groans in return. With Incubate, it’s possible to capture and store precious memories as they happen, and share them in the future when they’ve taken on new significance.

 

April 18, 2015

Wrap Raises $3.5 Million in Series A Funding

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In today’s mobile era, content in increasingly digested in “bite-size” chunks. Wrap Media is a new company looking to develop a viable alternative to what it calls “wraps,” or small stories delivered as swipe-able content on mobile devices. The company has raised $3.5 million in Series A funding from FF Angel LLC and Raine Ventures. 

Launching a wrap from your mobile device is easy enough, and once launched you may swipe left or right through the assorted pages to view content. It’s also possible to watch embedded YouTube videos or tap through links to connect with Wrap on social media. As far as potential use goes, options include sharing stories and embedding coupons or merchandise you can purchase from automated business emails, such as digital receipts and order confirmations.  

The folks at Wrap Media stress that what they’ve created is not “another website creation service,” but a “presentation layer” that sits pretty atop any platform. While wraps are currently delivered via the mobile web, founder Eric Greenberg says the company’s long-term goal is to provide such experiences from anywhere, whether a small smartphone screen or a gigantic living room television.  

Greenberg had the idea for Wrap while building a mobile gifting app through a card-based user interface. He found the interface had more potential than the app itself, and subsequently shifted company focus to the interface. Greenberg is also the founder of several other companies, including systems integrators Scient and Viant. 

Wrap’s web-based authoring service provides companies with the ability to create app-like messages using simplistic tools, and messages may be shared as links on social media, SMS, and email. The idea is to provide a new format for mobile marketing so companies can share their stories without having to invest in serious development and design resources, even though it still looks like they did. Wraps are created in 15 minutes or over the course of a few hours depending on the amount of content involved. 

“This is a story that can’t be told today…because you’d have to develop something from scratch. And to do something like this, is a minimum of six figures,” Greenberg explained. “So instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars with developers and designers, you can literally create these interactive experiences with a junior marketing manager, with no code and no design experience.”  

Companies currently utilizing Wrap’s services include CBS Interactive, Loverly, and StumbleUpon. Wrap is also in talks with some 50 other companies. Pricing is on a transitional basis as well as software-as-a-service, as Wrap is still in private beta. Service is intended to start around $300-$500 per month. 

The $3.5 million Wrap has acquired in funding includes $3 million from Founders Fund’s seed stage fund FF Angel LLC and Raine Ventures. The remaining $500,000 is out of Greenberg’s pocket. He also seeded the company with another $2.5 million, resulting in $6 million in raised funds. 

Wrap is expected to launch in September 2015. 

 

April 17, 2015

Apple Watch Pre-Orders Reach a Million

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Apple recently began pre-selling three versions of its new smart watch to the world, with orders now hitting the one million mark. And that’s just in the United States.  

Unsurprisingly called the Apple Watch, the device allows you to read emails, send messages, and answer iPhone calls, all from the convenience of your wrist. A Taptic Engine feature alerts you through—you guessed it—a tap, so no notifications are missed. The Digital Touch feature makes it easy to communicate by sending a tap, sketch, or heartbeat. There’s even health and fitness features, as well as Apple Pay.  

The watch is available in aforementioned three collections: Apple Watch Sport, priced at $349 and $399; Apple Watch, which costs between $549 to $1,099; and Apple Watch Edition, a watch created from custom rose or yellow 18-karat gold alloys. Prices for the Edition start at $10,000. 

"Apple users were waiting for the Apple watch, so when we saw this huge surge in demand, we were not surprised at all," Jaimee Minney, vice president of marketing and public relations for Slice Intelligence, told ABC News. 

The future of the Apple Watch looks good despite what Slice calls “ho-hum reviews, even by some of the most ardent Apple fans.” According to the company, the average Apple Watch buyer ordered 1.3 watches, spending $503.83 per watch. Consumers opting for the Apple Watch Sport edition spent $382.83 per device, while those ordering the Apple Watch edition spent $707.04. 

“Among those buying an Apple Watch, 72 percent purchased an Apple product in the past two years -- iPhone, Apple computer or iPad -- and 21 percent of them pre-ordered an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus mere months ago,” Minney wrote in a recent blog post. “Nearly one-third purchased two Apple products and 11 percent bought all three devices, in addition to their new watch.” 

Watch accessories are also popular, with Minney noting consumers who purchased the Apple Watch or the Sport edition choosing the larger 42mm case. The space gray aluminum case is a favorite as well, edging out the silver and space black cases. 

“The Black Sport Band was by far the most popular among both Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport buyers, with 49 percent overall pre-ordering one, followed by the White Sport Band at 16 percent and the more expensive Milanese Loop -- $149 versus $49 for the black Sport band -- rounding out the top three at around 10 percent,” Minney remarked.  

According to Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics, should Apple continue to see one million units per quarter the company would easily become one of the most profitable watchmakers in the world. This means second to Swatch in regards to profitability and only just behind the legendary Rolex brand. 

“If you told people about a new Apple product that cost $400 and asked them if they would buy it, 1 million people would say yes," Entner said. "They don’t even need to know what it is -- and more often than not they wouldn’t be disappointed. Since the second coming of Steve Jobs, the missteps that Apple has taken are few and far between.” 

 

April 15, 2015

Mobile Devices Mostly Impervious to Hackers, say Verizon

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Mobile has revolutionized the tech industry, creating as many new businesses as it has destroyed old ones. In the past decade, a ‘marketing strategy’ has turned into a ‘digital marketing strategy’ before morphing swiftly into a ‘mobile marketing strategy’ and it’s left countless heads spinning. 

Oddly, there is one perennial area of concern for the industry that has remained largely untouched by the smartphone: hacking. 

According to a recent report from Verizon, mobile devices are seldom used by hackers to commit their nefarious deeds, which is not all that surprising, given the limitations of inputting complex code into small-screen devices. Perhaps more surprising is just how few mobile devices are targeted by hackers. 

The Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) is Verizon’s annual paper on cybersecurity issues. This year’s DBIR has concluded that “mobile devices are not a preferred vector in data breaches.” In other words: criminals use laptops and desktops to hack into networks.

The report draws on data from tens of millions of mobile devices on Verizon’s own network. It found just 0.03% of tablets and smartphones were infected with serious malware - significantly below the 0.68% rate of infection from unwanted software affecting non-mobile devices. 

That’s not all the good news. The few infections that make it through to our phones are generally less serious than the types of spyware and malware affecting our computers. The lion’s share of ‘successful’ mobile viruses were relatively harmless pieces of ‘adnoyance’ software, which are aimed at trying to direct users to purchase security packages and other money-making schemes, or collect personal data. These types of infection are also much easier to spot than the more malicious desktop infractions. 

Apple users won’t be surprised to learn that the vast majority of infections were found on open-source Android devices. In fact, most suspicious activity logged on iOS devices were failed ‘hit and hope’ scams aimed at Android users. 

This information, while reassuring, is not an excuse for lax security practices. But it does suggest the new model of closed, app-based software - designed to be impervious to hackers - is working, and that can only be a good thing. As more and more online activity is conducted via mobile devices, the tolerance for security breaches will (hopefully) continue to plummet. 

 

April 06, 2015

The SMS Encryption App that Simplifies Private Communication

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The NationalSecurity Agency (NSA) and the (British) Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have been accused of hacking into servers and SIM cards to obtain access to text messages. “Man in the middle attack” is also a problem, and can occur when using an un-encrypted, wifi-based text messaging service. If an individual hacks into the wifi network, the person can access text messages. 

Encryption is therefore increasingly the only way to maintain a sense of privacy, and while it’s traditionally been difficult for non-techies to understand, new high-quality, user-friendly software has become available. Most notably, app developer Open Whisper Systems recently released an updated version of their encryption app Signal for iPhones and Android phones. In the app, entitled Signal 2.0, supported encrypted text messages use a protocol called TextSecure, which allows users to communicate using voice and text knowing nothing will be intercepted over the internet. 

The app encrypts data when sending text messages as long as the person receiving the text is also running Signal 2.0. The app is celebrated as offering “peace of mind,” and unlike similar products, it features an open source code for expert inspection. It also supports “forward secrecy,” which prevents hackers from decrypting old messages should they steal encryption keys. 

Signal 2.0 offers extra security for iPhone users, as it’s the “one place” where all their communications are always fully encrypted. Other apps, such as Apple’s iMessage, may utilize strong encryption tactics, but only when there’s a proper data connection between two Apple devices. When this is not the case, the app reverts to insecure SMS messaging. The app doesn’t feature forward secrecy or an inspectable source code, either. 

Another Signal 2.0 advantage? It allows “power users” to verify whom they’re communicating with, which provides confirmation that the encryption isn’t being hacked. Using iMessage means “taking Apple’s word for it.” 

Open Whisper Systems and its founder Moxie Marlinspike are enjoying growing reputations for blending reliable encryption with the convenience of mobile. The company also recently partnered with the makers of WhatsApp to add encryption to the messaging product. 

“We want to make private communication simple,” says Marlinspike, who designed the encryption protocols behind his company’s apps. “Our objective is to do new cryptographic research and development that advances the state of the art while simultaneously making it frictionless and accessible for anyone.”

The app is currently split into two options for Android users--TextSecure for private messaging and RedPhone for private calls. “We’re working towards a single unified Signal app for Android, iPhone and the desktop,” says Marlinspike. 

Encryption tools are only as good as the devices they’re installed on, but Signal 2.0 is still paving the way to make spying on billions of people nearly impossible. 

 

April 05, 2015

Mobile Messaging: The Ultimate Customer Service Helpdesk

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Mobile marketing has witnessed a decade of innovation during which thousands upon thousands of apps have flooded the marketplace, doing everything from fitness tracking to spread betting. But what if there was no need for a separate app for each task? What if you could use a single interface to request and receive goods and services? 

The rise of apps like Magic has brought ‘conversational commerce’ - in which customers can make specific requests via SMS messaging - to the forefront. Facebook is soon to launch it’s own Magic-like on-demand text service. Meanwhile, messaging app SnapChat is expanding to offer a commercial iteration of its service - SnapCash - which allows users to make transactions for products. 

This is all relatively new stuff in the United States, but Asia has been harnessing the full potential of SMS messaging as a catch-all service tool for some years. In China, WeChat gives its 440 million users a single portal through which they can pay bills, order taxis and shop; the app has generated more than $1.1 billion in revenue since launching in 2011. In Japan, LinePay provides a similar service. 

In the U.S., most of the recent buzz around ‘conversational commerce’ has focused on Magic, the app that allows you to request any service that exists in the real world, from dry cleaning to dry stonewalling. The so-called ‘concierge’ service uses a winning combination of human and artificial intelligence to meet the demands of its growing customer base.

Other start-ups have followed suit. Scratch, for instance, offers a ‘professional shopper’ to not only help facilitate purchases, but actually offer fashion advice along the way. Native pulls off a similar trick in the travel world, working as a personalized travel assistant to help you plan every part of your trip via SMS messaging. 

The implications of this development are significant for the future of mobile. The limitations of the mobile interface have always been down to the problems of shrinking a desktop internet onto small screens. Fiddly shopping carts and multiple apps make for a fractious, incomplete experience. But the text message was made for small screen devices. Now it is liberating us from the process of browsing, comparing and purchasing goods which, even on a mobile-friendly site or app, is a little unwieldy.

 

April 04, 2015

Smartphones Are Now the Dominant Mobile Device

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Unless you’ve been living under a frightfully large rock, you know the impact smartphones have had on the digital industry. Unsurprisingly the devices now make up 75% of the mobile phone market, a 10% increase from a year ago and a 73% increase from 10 years ago, according to Internet analytics firm comScore. 

Three-quarters of Americans aged 13 or older own smartphones, with the rest using basic cellphones, such as flip phones and TracFones. The percentage of people who don’t own a cellphone at all….well, that number is so low it’s not even worth discussing.  

“If you take a look at the big picture, it’s how mobile has taken over and become the dominant platform through which people engage in digital media,” said Andrew Lipsman, vice president of marketing and insights at comScore.  

People are spending more and more time in front of digital screens despite the fact that desktop use has gone down the tubes. Still, people are glued to their screens practically all day and night, whether on their way to work, watching TV, or any other time thanks to the prevalence of smartphones and tablets.  

The positive side to this screen addiction is the ability to stay better informed and even learn a thing or two more quickly, noted Lipsman. The negative side is a bit more complicated, as new research recently released by digital technology firm Apigee in San Jose, CA and Stanford University’s Mobile Innovation Group, found a “deepening dependence” on smartphones in terms of social interaction. Dependency was most severe among smartphone users, who say they’re on their phones “nearly all the time,” including while at family dinners. 

Shockingly, 21% of smartphone users said they couldn’t sustain a relationship with a partner without their phone apps, and 19% of users said they could not make new friends without the the assistance of their devices. Younger Americans use smartphones the most (surprise, surprise), with at least 85% of citizens ages 13 to 44 owning one, according to comScore. 

The numbers decline with age: 76% of people ages 45 to 54 use smartphones, and 63% of those ages 55 to 64 use such devices. The percentage is 48% people ages 65 or older. 

Apple devices remain the most popular, as they make up 41% of the market. The company is followed by Samsung, LG, Motorola, and HTC at 29%, 8%, 5%, and 4% respectively. 

Wondering about the most popular smartphone apps? Facebook still rules them all with 70% of the market, followed by YouTube (55%), Google Play (52%), Google Search (52%), and Facebook Messenger (47%). 

What will become of the country’s smartphone addiction? Only time will tell….